Archive for April 3rd, 2009

Sexting, Mass Hysteria, and the Inadequacies of the US Criminal Justice System

In my Gender and Computing class, we’ve talked briefly about this new thing called “sexting”. It’s where teenage females take nude photos of themselves and send them via cellphone to people, usually their boyfriends at the time. And, as you’ve probably figured out, the boyfriend forwards the pics to all his buddies, who forward the pics to theirs, and so on.

One highly publicized story about sexting recently told the case of Jesse Logan who ended up committing suicide because she was teased by people at her school after a picture she sent a boyfriend was circulated.

As a result of that and other similar stories, a kind of mass hysteria erupted, and some girls who had sexted were threatened withprosecution for manufacturing and distributing child pornography.

But, that’s not the worst. Check out this insane example of the inadequacies of the US Criminal Justice System: ‘Sexting’ Hysteria Falsely Brands Educator as Child Pornographer

I’m floored by the actions of the prosecutor who went after Mr. Oei for no good reason, the boy’s mother who tried to cover up her own bad parenting by falsely alleging Mr. Oei had committed child abuse, and the principal who didn’t have the balls to stand up for his employee who was only doing what he was told.

One good thing has resulted from this outrageous abuse of the criminal justice system. It was announced today, that as a result, a judge has blocked prosecutions of girls who sexted.

Stories like the one about Mr. Oei’s plight reaffirm my distrust of the US Criminal Justice System and of the sex offender registry. It had to go all the way to the state supreme court before someone stood up for what is right. If that hadn’t happened, Mr. Oei would now be on the sex offender registry in Virginia. Mr. Oei’s large support system of church members, friends, and former students probably played a large part in his getting the case thrown out. If this could have happened to him, then how many people who don’t have a support system are currently on a sex offender registry that don’t deserve it?

I’m not advocating that something shouldn’t be done about sexting. Far from it. Sexting is degrading and encourages objectification, in addition to all the emotional turmoil it can cause girls.

But laws like these examples are not the way to solve this problem. Girls and boys need to be made aware of the possible consequences of their actions before they start sexting. Such education should definitely start at home. But, it should also extend into the schools and the media through public awareness campaigns. Such education has worked before with other issues, like littering.

But making more ridiculous laws and then trying to use those laws for personal and/or political gain will not provide a solution. They’ll only hurt innocent citizens as well as the credibility of the criminal justice system.